Movie stars aren’t the usual Symphony Hall crowd, but last week, two dark-suited ushers swung open the doors of the Hatch Room and out poured Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Cherry Jones. They were there, along with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, to promote their appearance later that evening in The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, the Peter Boyer (composer) and Lynn Ahrens (librettist) piece that Lockhart commissioned for the Pops’ 125th anniversary.
The press conference, it turned out, was more fun and much more moving than the piece itself.
Most evident was the actors’ passion for the Kennedys. “The Kennedys,” said De Niro, “expressed the best of what America wants to be.” Choking up, he added, “It’s hard for me to say anything else.”
Freeman, wearing a baseball cap that read LEGEND, said he was “tickled” to be part of this tribute. Asked what relationship any of them had with the Kennedys, Freeman leaned down from his great height and whispered into his microphone: “I danced with Ethel!”
Harris (in an Obama cap) told a touching anecdote about his parents taking him to see JFK lying in state after the assassination, only to have the doors close because the procession to Arlington Cemetery had to begin.
Among the speeches they would recite that evening, JFK’s “Ask not” inaugural was the actors’ favorite; Jones added that what most got to her was the next sentence, about what “together we can do for the freedom of man.” Asked how they would approach these famous addresses, Freeman answered: “Read the script and try not to act.”
Boyer, who got the commission in November, called it “the greatest honor bestowed on me as a composer.” Librettist Ahrens admitted that she met Boyer for the first time only the day before.
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